People thought Lewis Hamilton couldn’t handle pressure. Mistakes in China and Brazil last year cost him the 2007 World Championship and pessimists had begun pointing to this year’s Canadian and French Grands Prix – both pointless after more errors – as pivotal moments in this year’s campaign.
Given his faltering title challenge, there was a section of the Formula 1 pressroom that considered his hectic schedule during the build-up to the British Grand Prix to be inappropriate.
In the space of a week, he’d partied with Nelson Mandela on two consecutive nights, sailed around the Isle of Wight, entertained guests at Brooklands’ Double Twelve event and been announced as the new face of Reebok. He was heading for a fall, we were told.
We were told wrong.
Lewis Hamilton: top of the table
Lewis answered his critics in emphatic style yesterday, dominating events at Silverstone and taking a joint lead in the World Championship.
The waterlogged track gave him every opportunity to spin off, yet he was only one of four drivers to keep it on the island, and when the rain fell hardest in the middle of the race he reigned supreme, lapping six seconds faster than other cars that had remained on Bridgestone’s intermediate rubber.
Ayrton Senna might have overtaken more people in the wet at Donington in 1993, but Hamilton was every bit as dominant as the great Brazilian at the ’Stone. He delivered when the pressure was really on, proving that the negative column inches of last week were merely a reflection on the journos, who didn’t have the stamina to keep up with his schedule.
British Grand Prix 2008: a strategist’s race
The track conditions at Silverstone 2008 were far more unpredictable than at Monaco earlier in the year, making the British GP the first race of the year at which team strategists have had to think on their feet. And who should come out on top? Ace tactician Ross Brawn, of course.
Honda’s team principal changed Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello onto extreme wet tyres when the track conditions were at their worst, with the result that they lapped 20 seconds faster than the front-runners.
Barrichello even sailed past Hamilton, before settling for third place as the track dried towards the end of the race. All the while Ferrari, Brawn’s former team, lurched from one strategic disaster to the next. Surely not a coincidence…